By Thomas Sellers Jr.
It took the Friendship Christian Academy Lady Commanders about 24 hours to take a 1-0 Sub-State Series lead over the host Tipton-Rosemark Academy Lady Rebels.
The girls from Lebanon made the trip to Millington in time to play TRA in the first game of the best 2 out 3 format. But Wednesday night’s first game was delayed because of rain.
When the two team reconvened Thursday afternoon, Friendship pulled out a 4-0 victory. Game 2 followed minutes later with the Lady Commanders neutralizing the Lady Rebel bats for the first three innings.
With the score 0-0 in the bottom of the third, Friendship put together a 4 run rally including a three-run homer to prevail 4-1 and sweep the series. The Lady Commanders advanced to this week’s Division II-A State Softball Tournament in Murfreesboro.
The two defeats brought an end to the season for Head Coach Johnie Sanfratello’s Lady Rebels.
“We just didn’t execute at the plate,” he said. “Those were probably two of the best pitchers we’ve seen all year. Unfortunately we had to see them when we had to see them. We just didn’t hit the ball. That’s what it comes down to. Our pitching was good enough to win.
“I probably left Emily (West) in there one batter to long. I told her at the beginning of the inning to keep them off balance for a while,” Sanfratello added. “I told her I had a short leach. But it wasn’t short enough.”
The Lady Rebel pitching combination of West and Charli Rice had success against Friendship in both games. But the Lady Commanders put together a pair of rallies in both games to advance to State.
“They are a tremendous three seed from the Middle of Tennessee,” Sanfratello said. “They’re a good team. And they’ve got the combination of hitting and pitching. When you’ve got both, it takes a lot to beat you.”
TRA entered Sub-State as the No. 1 seed out of West Tennessee. Friendship advance in the first round with a 10-0 victory over the defending champs Silverdale.
The Lady Rebels dominated all season over the competition in league against Jackson Christian and Fayette Academy. TRA even took on the likes of Class 3A powers like Arlington.
Sanfratello told his players after the game, the 2019 season was still special because their work on and off the field was validated.
“I started off by saying we have been in the weight room since August,” he said. “I have no doubt, there are very few teams that work as hard as we do in the offseason. I simply told them, ‘The better team wins most of the time. Today we were not the better team. But hard work is not the reason we loss. It’s the reason why we were here.’
“It’s going to take that next year and more,” he concluded. “Don’t ever think all that hard work was for nothing.”